Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Butterflies Emerged Today!


Well, yesterday, five Monarch butterflies emerged from their chrysalises here in our home! We are so excited. We have 4 males and 1 female. But this experience is not our first in rearing Monarchs, so let me back up a moment and give you a little background.

My family and I moved here to South Texas in 2008. Prior to that, we had lived in South Georgia. There, I raised over 2,000 Monarchs in less than 2 years. I was a high school teacher back then, and we had a nice program going at the school that I taught at. However, due to a lifelong debilitating bout with crippling arthritis, I had to quit my job. Additionally, my wife and I had a new baby girl in the family. So, my wife felt it best to relocate to be closer to family for help and support, so off to Corpus Christi Texas we moved, where my wife was born and raised.

Both my wife and I were saddened by the fact that we had to suspend our butterfly rearing project. It brought such great joy to all who were involved with it, both children and adults.

Well, last fall, I had artificial hip revision surgery, and I am currently recooperating from that. The arthritis is in all parts of my body now, and it greatly limits what I can do. However, my wife and I decided to try and rear a few Monarch Butterflies here and there, and yesterday morning, our first 5 emerged! What joy!

We purchased some Milkweed plants from a local nursery, and to our delight, there were caterpillars and eggs already on the plants. Our joy soon turned to sadness and our first 5 caterpillars mysteriously died when they tried to pupate. They all died at the exact same time in their final stage of pupation. This prompted me to do some research on the internet, and I found out that there is a certain predatory fly called the Tachinid fly that lays it's eggs on caterpillars. They feed on the insides of the caterpillar but do not kill it until around the time it pupates.

So, the first 5 were a loss. We were off to a bad start. However, a couple of days later, we notice more caterpillars on the plants. They must have been eggs when we bought the Milkweed. We immediately took the plants inside and placed them in a protective pavillion. There were 8 in number, and 5 emerged yesterday. One fell as it was pupating and died. It looks like the remaining 2 will emerge in the next day or two. We are thrilled!

Lastly, we got a few more Milkweed plants. Again, they have caterpillars on them, so here we go again. Sometimes, it seems the hardest part in rearing Monarchs is keeping sufficient Milkweed for the caterpillars to eat. They have such big appetites.

So, our Texas count for rearing Monarchs in 2010 is 5 and counting. We'll keep you posted.

Warm Regards,

Caleb Warren

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